9.18.2010

60 million striking indian workers made invisible by mainstream media

Did you know that, earlier this month, 60 million workers in India went on strike? The walk-outs shut down the country's banking, insurance, telecommunications, power and transit industries, among other sectors. One million workers walked out in the banking sector alone!
Millions of workers in India stayed away from work to protest against rising prices, job losses and state asset sales, forcing banks to shut offices in some cities and airlines to cancel flights.

“Persistently high inflation has made life difficult for a common man,” said Gurudas Dasgupta, general secretary at the All India Trade Union Congress. ‘Banking and civil aviation are the worst affected sectors so far.”

Today’s strike, the second in two months, affected business mainly in states ruled by communist parties. Inflation has held near ten percent this year, eroding incomes of almost three quarters of the population who live on less than $2 a day. A nationwide strike in July, called by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, shut schools and offices and grounded flights.

“The strike is quite widespread” in the states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, said M.K. Pandhe, vice president at the Centre of Indian Trade Unions. “Telecom, insurance, defense, banking, coal, power, port and road transport sectors have been affected.” Pandhe estimates about 60 million workers are on strike.

About one million bank employees in India joined the strike today to protest the central bank’s plan to offer new banking licenses and norms that allow foreign investment in the nation’s lenders, said Vishwas Utagi, secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association, the largest trade union for banking staff in the nation.

What's that you say? You didn't know about this? Neither did I. As my friend who posted this on Facebook said, "Thanks for missing this, Canadian mainstream media".

Little wonder you didn't read about 60 million Indian workers striking, since you probably don't hear much about protracted strikes going on right in your own backyard. A series of union solidarity actions this week were meant to bring attention to a strike at Engineered Coated Products, where more than 80 Steelworkers have been on strike for two years. ECP has instituted massive cuts in wages and benefits, and rather than negotiate in good faith, hired scabs and goons a "private security force" to continue operations.

At the Marxism conference earlier this year, it was thrilling to hear Kostas Katarahiasan, an anti-capitalist activist from Greece - a physician - describe the massive general strikes that shut down his country after austerity measures were announced. How about a 30% cut in wages and pensions, while corporate taxes decrease and VAT (i.e. GST) rises? Union leaders were useless or obstructionist, so the people took matters into their own hands, forming committees, discussing a plan of action, organizing, organizing, organizing - and walking out in huge numbers. (There is audio of this talk here, but I think most people find that an inconvenient format. I am still waiting to get video of this inspiring talk, and will then blog my extensive notes.)

Following those actions in Greece, massive strikes of millions of people have taken place in many European countries, and there is a continent-wide general strike planned for September 29.

Here in North America, we accept these "austerity budgets" like sheep to the slaughter. The glimmer of hope I thought I saw in the anti-prorogation rally and during the G20 are quashed through fear tactics and widespread obedience.

In the US, ordinary working-class people cling to an ideal of individualism, preferring to blame immigrants or the party that is slightly less right-wing - which they call "socialist" - for their problems. Canadians whine about all political parties and take no action of their own - except to excoriate public workers who are desperately trying to preserve quality services and good jobs.

There's another lesson here, one that cannot be learned often enough. Don't look to CBC, Globe and Mail, and CTV to tell you what's happening in the world. Corporate media protects corporate interests.

8 comments:

redsock said...

Don't look to CBC, Globe and Mail, and CTV to tell you what's happening in the world. Corporate media protects corporate interests.

They don't want working people gettin' any crazy ideas in their heads. Better to make 'em believe they are damn lucky to have any work at all.

P.S. Facebook friend saying the mainstream media "missed" this story is somewhat inaccurate, as I know we know.

L-girl said...

Facebook friend saying the mainstream media "missed" this story is somewhat inaccurate, as I know we know.

He was being sarcastic. He's a bigtime socialist organizer, and very very sharp.

Mike said...

Who needs censorship when you've got the corporate media deciding what gets published eh? I mean twice the population of Canada going on strike isn't newsworthy at all in this country. Everything is fine after all, no point in complaining it's just you.

redsock said...

Right. If 10% of the Canadian population went on strike, it would be one of the biggest stories in the history of this country.

This was 20 times that amount!

And not one little peep.

Nitangae said...

Well, as to the question how could anybody miss 60 million people going on strike, the news media follows certain strict rules:

1. Protests/strikes are not generally to take up newsprint or news time unless it cannot be avoided or the protesters can be easily denounced or mocked.


2. Asians/Brown people are interesting if they are starving/overworked or terrorists or sexy cell-phone-using consumers. Agency shown by Asians/brown people that cannot be put into the categories "they are our evil enemies - help us!" (terrorists) or "they are starving - we must save them by making them like us" or "they want to be like us - no need to change anything!" (sexy, cell-phone using consumers) is not to be discussed, lest they detract from wealthy philanthropists saving them or corporate assholes using them as a neo-liberal moral.

3. Thus, 60 million striking workers might reach the news if they were European and could thus be conveniently mocked (stupid French strikers! I guess they don't know whats good for them!) . But as they are Indian, they just disturb the key alternative presented in the news media between "world-is-flat sexy Dubai cellphones and hot-chicks wearing couture!"/"evil anti-western terrorists! Save us!"

I know you know this. I just occasionally need to rant :-).

Lorraine said...

Looks like there's been some bossnapping.

L-girl said...

Thanks for the excellent commentary, you guys.

Lorraine, not sure what that was meant to link to?

Some Person said...

I'm somewhat embarrassed that I'm just now finding out about this. Thank you, India, for making me aware that many people out there do care enough to strike, and that the human spirit is alive and well.